Deep down, in the places we don’t tell our neighbors and significant others about, we all want a Unimog. And even this 1971 Mercecedes-Benz Unimog S 404.1, far from the weirdest or strangest of its ilk, will scratch that elusive itch that a Wrangler or a Hummer can’t.
You’ll find the listing for this clean-looking German military machine over at Bring a Trailer. The Unimog 404 apparently made its way to Illinois via a previous BaT auction in 2014, surely finding itself a nice place to curl up for retirement after a stint in the Swiss military. It has 14,000 miles on the odometer, a six-speed manual transmission for the 2.2-liter straight-six, and your usual locking differentials and portal axles. There are two crawling ratios, four forward ratios for normal street driving, and two reverse gears.
It arrived upon import to the U.S. with a damaged radio box, which was soon replaced with a custom-fab drop-side bed by the previous owner. Aside from a new hood and a fresh coat of white paint with magnetic UN emblems, it’s unmolested German off-road goodness. There’s a little bit of wear, but that’s basically a requirement on a Unimog—these aren’t meant to be rubbed with a diaper in a garage.
The 404 S is, as Unimogs go, a fairly basic and affordable way to break into this weird world. They’re plenty cool but lack the sensational weirdness, gearing, and versatility of the 406 or the 416. More discerning Unimoggers would prefer something with an 18-speed transmission and three reverse speeds. If you’re gonna go full Unimog there are plenty of other options, but this 404 is a good first foray and a reasonably clean one, at least judging by the photos.